Friday, 22 June 2012

Celebration of Youth

Amanpreet Paul, Young Journalist, on Day 2 of Connections at the NT

Arguably, in an age of modernity young people are increasingly accused off apathy. An era of video games, the internet and 3D cinema young people are often considered consumers rather than creators.


Despite this, energy and passion were in abundance at  the National Theatre’s Connections Festival proving the critics of today’s generation wrong. The festival encourages the celebration of youth, talent and their passion for producing and showcasing performing arts.  

Of course, London is a capital that is recognised worldwide for its contribution to the exiting and innovative performing arts scene. The young actors of college theatre companies have been lifted from the comfort of local shows and catapulted on the stage of the National Theatre, as if a dream they all expressed.

Undoubtedly, a theatre company is far more a family than a company of colleagues. The cast of ‘The Ritual’ all admitted to the bubble-like creation of a theatre world, in which such a vast amount of time in close proximities with one another is spent, that personal jokes and feeling completely at home in collective company was bound to follow. It’s a world that was described by one cast member as ‘difficult to shut down’, almost all consuming, but, in an exciting, albeit exhausting, way.

Organised chaos would be the suitable description for the behind-the-scenes atmosphere.  Time was of the essence as, quite literally, last minute tweaks were made to the characterisations and performances. Yet, I was given the impression that the theatre companies were not dictatorial, the director would often ask ‘How do you feel?’, this appeared to me a vital question that encouraged mutual understanding and a more confident performance.

Of course, theatre is not just about the performance, but, what is equally and sometimes more important is the making of the show. Crewmembers have an important role to play and Hayley Wareham at 23 was the mother hen of her assigned theatre group. Duties varied from ensuring she did not lose cast members to the labyrinth (otherwise known as the National Theatre), keeping them watered and fed and neutralising any nervous energy they displayed. Perhaps, not the most glamorous job running around the building getting sweaty she explained, but, fundamental to the theatre process. Interestingly, what she noticed most was the respect young people have for the theatre.

It may have been a showcase of young talent, but, the way in which they dealt with the scripts and the dramatisation was very adult. Many of the themes in the plays are quite sinister. Allowing young people to explore serious themes pays homage to the belief in their ability to understand complexities of humankind and deal with them in relatable ways.

Director, Denny Smith, of The Ritual spoke honestly about the ease at which adults can underestimate young people’s ability to adapt to new and challenging experiences. Expressing that, despite the students of Rotherham College in South Yorkshire being BTEC students that theatre is not about grades, but, telling stories that people want to hear. His face was lit with immense pride in his students, ‘I want this to change their lives as professionals and as a person.’ I think he needn’t worry, it seemed to me as if it already had.
It is refreshing when young people are given a platform in society and the Connections Festival seemed a humbling experience for all: the writers, the directors, the producers and of course the ever-talented actors.

It was a real joy to watch not just the performances, but, journey the rollercoaster-like experience of the production company- just like unwrapping a special gift.

I strongly believe that if you’re passionate enough about something then it is hard not to get it right. The thing with young people is that there is still a degree of fearlessness that promotes hope, self-belief and the capacity to be a dreamer.

Beyond this, the Connections Festival proves that this is something inherent in those that share an appreciation for the arts and a strong assurance that creativity should be celebrated and encouraged: bridging the gap between young and old- or should I say older?  

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